* As Hurricane Floyd threatened to give us a panic attack, we sought solace from Jim Travers, the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service's Baltimore/ Washington forecast office. Boy, did we go to the wrong place! While Travers told us that he personally isn't too worried about the storm, he did send his wife of 29 years, aspiring romance novelist Cynthia, to the grocery store Tuesday night to stock up on emergency supplies.

"It's going to be disruptive, to say the least," the 35-year weather veteran told us from his office in Sterling. "You could get maybe five inches or more of rain in some areas and wind gusts of more than 50 miles an hour." That could mean flash flooding, knocked-over trees and downed power lines today.

Travers, 55, says he has been crazy about weather since he was a lad in Long Island. "I used to go around to the neighbors, giving them my fearless forecast."

As for avoiding Floyd, Travers suggests Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela. "It's one of those places, being a meteorologist, you can go and feel very secure that you're going to get the kind of weather you want," he said. "It experiences tropical storm-force winds only once every 100 years."


* He plays a doctor on TV, and now Anthony Edwards is pressing for more medical research on autism, a syndrome affecting 400,000 Americans. "There are so many great causes for which you can use your celebrity," "ER's" Dr. Mark Greene told us. "I've chosen to become active with autism because it's suffered for the past 40 years from not having any research focus. Fifteen years ago, before all the research into Alzheimer's disease, people would say that 'Grandma's a little loopy.' Autism is being treated in a very similar way." Today Edwards testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in support of legislation to create five university-based research centers nationwide.


Weight Watchers spokes-model Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, attacked Princess Di biographer Sally Bedell Smith yesterday, scorching Smith for writing that Diana cut Fergie off a year before her death after Fergie claimed in her memoirs that she'd contracted warts from borrowing a pair of Diana's shoes.

"Never heard of her," Fergie sniffed about the Washington-based author of "Diana in Search of Herself," after keynoting a conference on obesity at the Renaissance Hotel. "I don't know how this woman can think that she knows what my relationship with Diana was like. It's very interesting that she feels she has the right to write the book without talking to me or Diana," she told us. "I also don't think it's right to make money out of writing a book about someone who's not here to defend herself."

About Diana, who Smith claims refused to speak to Fergie after the fall of 1996, Fergie said: "Every day I miss her. In my private way, I remember her the same every day."

Fergie--who was just named London correspondent for NBC's "Today" show and looked snazzy in a royal-blue suit--told us she has reached a comfortable place in life. "I have come to the frame of mind that the best way is to go forward and be true to yourself and be true to what you want." Lapsing into the third-person spectacular, she added: "I love the British people. I really am loyal to them. I hope they understand Sarah and don't believe all they read."


* Bionic 50-year-old Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) finished yesterday's three-mile Capital Challenge race, benefiting the Special Olympics, in an amazing 17:01. Gordon's time, which makes him Congress's fastest human, was two seconds shy of his personal best. "I went and had some spaghetti last night," he said. "It probably slowed me down."

* Latinos in the Lone Star State may like their governor, but Carlos Santana doesn't. The rocker was overheard telling Geraldo Rivera yesterday at Felix in Adams-Morgan: "Any Hispanic who votes for George W. Bush is an Uncle Tom and should know it."

* Fannie Mae Vice Chairman Jamie Gorelick's brother-in-law, horror writer R.L. Stine, will be at the National Press Club Saturday to tout his latest, "Nightmare Hour." Stine--whose "Goosebumps" series has sold 230 million copies in the United States--was just named the Guinness Book of World Records' best-selling children's author ever, and claims not to be terrified by the Harry Potter invasion. "They're nice little books," he told us.

* House members sounded like gleeful kids when Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) announced a Floyd-related recess yesterday. "It's like a snow day when you were in school," Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Penn.) crowed to The Post's Juliet Eilperin.